Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Unexpected: Cocoa-nana Bread

I am not a planner.  I do not like to plan things ahead.  Except for work related stuff, which I am paid to do and trained to do, I never good at planning anything. Even vacation, I did not like to do the planning until N asked me several times and got mad at me. I know, this is bad.  But don't you think that things happen outside of your plan is more excited?  Things that come out of a sudden burst of idea, things that do not follow the usual path. Like, when I first started this blog, I just followed my sudden urge to do it. No plan, no preparation, no research. Just go for it. I still feel so amazed and so full of gratitude that there are visitors/readers who like what I posted.

In the rare occasion that I do plan ahead, things usually do not turn out as expected. I was in the mood of trying new baking recipe last Friday night. I wanted something simple and easy to do, but at the same time, N for sure would like it. So, it has to be something chocolaty. N has also been asking for banana bread several times.  Since I got two really ripe bananas on hand, why not combine these two yummy ingredients together. Scanned through Dorie's book, found a recipe exactly what I wanted - a Cocoa-nana bread.  Even the name sounds cute!  So, I prepared to make it on Saturday morning. Although it was the first time I tried the recipe, I trusted Dorie Greenspan.  Besides, what can go wrong with banana bread? I decided that it should be delicious enough to blog about it and on Friday night, I was already planning on how to take the picture. 

I got up very early on Saturday to make the bread because I love having the freshly baked goods smell in the house in the morning. I followed the recipe all through. When the bread came out from the oven, it looked promising.  But, the first bite of it got me wonder if there was anything wrong with my taste buds. The cocoa flavor was so overwhelm and the sweetness of the banana was completely lost to the bitterness of the bitter-sweet chocolate. I had a second bite, but still could not get use to the taste. I was upset and disappointed. I lost all my motivation to take pictures.  But since I had setup my picture setting already, I did take a few shots just to practice my photography skill.  N, being such a picky eater, to my surprise, did not complaint too much though.  Just said it was not great, and then kept eating.  

Curious of what other bloggers think about the recipe, I did some research on the internet. It turned out that this recipe had been tried out by the Tuesdays With Dorie group and several bloggers did not like it either.

It is now Wednesday night, what do you think happen to the bread?  It's not in the trash can. It's been mostly consumed and a small amount left in the fridge.  Strange things happened during these few days.  The cocoa mellowed out and all the flavors melted together, and the bread wrapped in saran wrap is still moist! I had a big piece after I got home from work today.  What a strange loaf of bread!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Salmon Teriyaki and Miso Soup

I do not think that we have enough fish consumed in our diet. Don't know why.  May be because I grew up in Hong Kong where fish were bought fresh, fresh in the sense that they were alive in the fish tank and killed by fish monger immediately after you bought it. So, I was a bit turned off by all the frozen or previously-frozen fish fillets that sell at the supermarket here. But, we got to adapt to and make the best out of what we have. As we have an abundance supply of salmon here and it is one of the most flavorful fish, I always like to try new ways of cooking it.  Teriyaki salmon is one of my favorite salmon recipe.

This is a quick and healthy dinner. I always make the teriyaki sauce ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can last for a few weeks. Besides salmon, I also use the sauce on grilled or broiled chicken thighs and on vegetable.

Recipe:  Salmon Teriyaki
Teriyaki sauce recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated Magazine

Ingredients for the sauce
1/2     cup soy sauce
1/2     cup sugar
1        tsp grated fresh ginger
1        clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
2        Tbsp mirin
1/2     tsp cornstarch

Other ingredients:
1       salmon fillet, about 6 to 8oz, 1/2 to 3/4" thick
1       Tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
  1. Put soy sauce, sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic in a small saucepan.  In a small bowl, mix mirin with cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved with no large lumps. Stir cornstarch mixture into the saucepan.  Bring the mixture the a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low for simmering. Stir occasionally and cook until the mixture is thickened, about 5 to 7 mins. Adjust consistency of the sauce to your preference by adjusting the simmering time.

For the salmon:

                           Pan-fry skin-side down first                                        Flip over when the skin is crispy and golden brown
  1. I like eating the skin as well. So, I usually season both sides of the fillet with salt and pepper.
  2. Add oil to the cast iron pan, swirl to coat the pan.  Heat oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking.  Put fish fillet in the pan, skin side down. Pan fry the fish for about 3 to 4 mins (depending on the thickness of the fillet) until the skin is golden brown.  Flip over the fish, pan fry the flesh side for another 2 to 3 mins, until golden brown. Remove fish from the pan and pour about 1 Tbsp of teriyiki sauce on top of the fish.  Serve.   

To make it a complete Japanese meal, besides serving the teriyaki salmon with rice, I also like making miso soup.  It is so easy to make miso soup when you have the right ingredients in your pantry and it is so much better than the over-salty soup in the average Japanese restaurant.  

Kitchen notes:  
  • Red miso is stronger and saltier in flavor while white miso is milder.  I like to mix both of them.  You can pick either one to suit your taste.
  • Using bonito powder to make the dashi soup base is a short cut step. Since I found out that even my Japanese sister-in-law is doing it this way, I did not bother making the soup base from scratch. But someday I will try!

                                               Clockwise from upper left: Red and white miso paste, bonito stock
                                                          powder, yummy miso soup, dried wakame seaweeds

Recipe:  Miso Soup

3        cup water
1/2     package of bonito powder
1/2     package of soft or medium firm tofu, cubed
4-5    shiitake mushroom, sliced
1        Tbsp red miso paste
1         Tbsp white miso paste
A handful of dry seaweed (I used wakame seaweeds)

  1. Add bonito powder to water.  Bring water to a boil over medium heat. Add tofu and mushroom, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Add miso paste.  Stir occasionally and simmer until miso paste is dissolved, about 2 to 3 mins.  Add dry seaweed, cover and simmer for another 1 to 2 mins, until seaweeds are softened.  Serve hot.

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